A state of the nation report on recruiting and retaining volunteersReport front cover

Having the right people around the table is essential to good governance. A board’s volunteers should share a common vision for the school/trust but bring different skills, knowledge, experience, perspectives and approaches to the table.

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This report explores volunteer recruitment and retention through the lens of the experiences and views of governors and trustees from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds and young volunteers (aged under 40) alongside data from NGA’s annual survey 2021 and a review of research from other sectors. It explores:

  • the picture of representation and inclusion in school and trust governance, and the impact of the current landscape
  • the experiences and perceptions of governing boards and their practice from groups which are underrepresented
  • how boards can best make it possible for people to join by taking a different approach to recruitment and practice
  • the importance of a diversity of thought and representation to increase governance’s positive impact for children and young people
  • that it is the responsibility of governing boards and the organisations that support them to drive the change needed, and identify approaches to doing so
  • how to move forward with intention and practical action

The full report provides insight, ideas and interpretation to equip boards, and especially those with responsibility for recruiting volunteers, with what they need to navigate discussions and take action. The recommendations set out many ways in which boards can move the dial on underrepresentation and creating an inclusive environment so that people with the skills, talents and passion needed are drawn from a wide range of backgrounds and lived experiences.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “The department welcomes the NGA’s timely and important report. We recognise the importance of a diverse board, and we are committed to working with the sector to improve diversity on boards. The Governance Handbook stresses the importance of diversity and highlights that a board composed of governors and academy trustees who bring a diverse range of skills, characteristics and perspectives and who are from different backgrounds, will have a positive impact on setting the strategic direction for the organisation. The department also funds free support from Academy Ambassadors and Inspiring Governance to help boards recruit skilled people, and has set stretching targets for them to encourage more people from ethnic minority backgrounds to apply to join governing boards. However, there is no doubt more we can do. We will continue to work closely with the NGA and other stakeholders on work across the sector to improve board diversity, including understanding the barriers to joining and staying on boards, and what can be done to remove these barriers.”

Watch our launch event 

Watch the launch event for the Increasing participation in school and trust governance report to understand our key findings and the comments of our panelists.

Taking action

It is the responsibility of everyone in governance to move this forward. Progress will ultimately come down to the action of the people with involvement and influence in recruitment, appointment and induction processes – their understanding of why it is in the best interest of children and young people, their approach and their will to change.

Alongside this report, NGA has updated its ‘right people around the table’ guidance to support boards with the ‘how’ of recruitment and retention with a focus on diversity and inclusion.

Further reading

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